Local songsmith and guitarist Mac Leaphart usually keeps things casual and simple during his weekly Monday night performances at the downtown Tsunami. At gigs like this, the tall-standing performer prefers things laid-back and undistracted.
He and co-hort Luke Cunningham (of Part-Time Heroes) normally strum a mixed set of familiar classic-rock, soul, and country tunes — the kind of mildly groovy stuff that goes over nicely with the Market/East Bat Street bar crowds. Last Monday, illuminated mostly by the glow of the Dolphins-Jets game on a TV, Leaphart steered his set into a more assertive-than-usual style, adding several melodic and original songs to his second and third sets. Wilson "Pickett" Pippin (Leaphart's bassist in his main band) sat in for Cunningham, switching between mandolin and acoustic guitar, keeping up well with cues and chord changes on songs he barely knew.
For such a low-key, background music type of gig, the duo managed to make some handsome sounds. Leaphart's easy-going onstage approach complemented his naturally smooth rhythm guitar style. His harmonica work on some songs was genuinely Dylan-esque. Known in the scene for his low-tone singing voice, his vocal range expanded widely on covers of Dylan, Marley, and Stones classics, and deep cuts from old Whiskeytown albums. On the soul side of things, he handles some impressive reworkings of Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and Stevie Wonder hits as well.
By request from the small crowd at the bar, Leaphart and Pippin even handled on-the-spot renditions of The Monkees' "Daydream Believer," Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" (most cover bands flub at least one or two lines in that one, but Leaphart nailed the lyrics and the "wah-ooo's"), and a smooth version of Bob Seger's "Night Moves."